In an update to our earlier piece detailing the savagery
which has ensued since the Pacifica National Board has tried to force
unwelcome and restrictive new management and policies on
its San Francisco-area flagship station, KPFA, Pigdog has
learned that KPFA's entire staff was ejected from the radio
station's building tonight, and riot police were called in
to forcibly disperse a crowd estimated at approximately 500
protestors gathered in support of the troubled franchise.
And, as if the current shenanigans weren't enough bad news for KPFA,
uncomfirmed word is filtering in regarding a possible sale of KPFA and/or
sister station WBAI in order to create an "endowment" for Pacifica's national
operation, which would almost certainly mean re-programming, total staff
turnover and a complete format change for a non-Pacifica KPFA, or in other
words, the end of the station as its listeners have come to know it.
response to the possibility of such a sale, a group of concerned
community members is poised to file a lawsuit challenging Pacifica's right
to disgorge KPFA's management, which it has already done, and ask for a
reversal of recent management changes.
The forced changes in KPFA's
management is the lightning rod which attracted the recent controversy leading
up to tonight's demonstrations. A chronology of events can
be found at the Save Pacifica site, which, along with Free Pacifica, is
providing breaking information on the brooding radio storm.
As for tonight's
confrontation, a post on Usenet described the forcible removal of KPFA's
"Flashpoints" host Dennis Bernstein and news anchor Mark Mericle, while yet
another post, from firstname.lastname@example.org, detailed the chaotic scene:
At a few minutes after 6 pm Pacific time this
evening, the KPFA Berkeley evening news was interrupted by the
sounds of Dennis Bernstein resisting being expelled from the
broadcasting studio by the armed guards recently hired by the
Pacifica National Board. The confrontatiuon was also broadcast on
KFCF Fresno, which directly sattelites KPFA programming.
Bernstein had been in the course of delivering a report on the
current dispute between KPFA staff and Pacifica, including a
statement by imprisoned commentator Mumia Abu-Jamal and a
recording of the press conference held this afternoon at which
representatives of the steering committee of the Coalition for a
democratic Pacifica told the press about an e-mail message from
Micheal Palmer to Mary Frances Berry, both Pacifica board members,
discussing the possible closing of KPFA and the sale of WBAI New
York. FreePacifica lawyer Dan Siegel was also heard speaking about
a planned law suit by KPFA listeners opposed to Pacifica's recent policies and the legal implications of what Palmer's message
At this point, while microphones were open,
Bernstein was apprehended and, according to KPFA newscaster Mark
Mericle, "dragged from the studio" by the guards. Bernstein was
heard over the air shouting that the guards would "have to shoot
me then to get me out of the building." After a few seconds'
silence, an audibly shaken Mericle continued the broadcast, explaining that Bernstein had been "placed on administrative leave"
and that KPFT Houston station manager Garland Gatner had been
brought to the Bay Area to take over operations at KPFA. As
Mericle then attempted to continue Bernstein's interrupted report,
the KPFA signal went silent; after a few minutes, a taped lecture
by Eric Mann was broadcast. †
suggested that Bernstein, Mericle and other KPFA staffers had been arrested
during the "siege" (charges unknown,) conflicting reports have emerged which
suggest Bernstein and others thought to have been ejected had managed to work
their way back into the station's building, where they remained as of the time
of this report ensconsed inside the studio with as many as 20 protesters, and
where they reportedly plan to remain until forcibly removed by the Berkeley
Clearly, the strange saga of KPFA has not yet reached its
final chapter, and Pigdog will stay on the story as further details emerge.